We sit down with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s newly appointed Managing Director South East Asia & Oceania, Iñigo Ohlsson. New to the role but not new to the brand, Iñigo’s appointment comes after almost 6 years with Jaeger-LeCoultre, having held the role of Country Manager for Mexico, as well as Australia & New Zealand.
We find out more about the man himself, as well as the brand and the watchmaking landscape in the region.
GV: Let’s begin with a brief introduction of yourself, your time with Jaeger-LeCoultre, as well as some of your highlights during your time with the brand.
I’m Spanish, married and I have three kids at the age of four, seven and ten. I’ve been travelling the world for some time since I left Spain 16 years ago and I’ve lived in China, Dubai, Argentina, Mexico, Australia and more recently, Singapore.
When it comes to Jaeger-LeCoultre, I’ve always been interested in watchmaking as a personal hobby and it wasn’t until late in my career that I joined the watchmaking industry.
I’ve been working for Jaeger-LeCoultre for six years and how it started is a bit of a coincidence really. I have always liked watchmaking and while I was living in Argentina, an opportunity presented itself in the form of Jaeger-LeCoultre opening an office in Mexico.
A key milestone for me during my time with Jaeger-LeCoultre was the opening of the first Jaeger-LeCoultre boutique in Mexico, making it the first watchmaking brand to own and operate its own internal boutique in Mexico.
Another notable milestone was the successful launch of the Polaris Collection in Australia last year.
Australia is a market with a lot of opportunities when it comes to watchmaking. The addition of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Collection, our sporty elegance line, was very well received during the launch last year, which helps us to get closer to the Australian clientele.
And the last highlight would be moving to Singapore to take care of the Southeast Asia region, I always say that this is one of the most interesting regions in the world in my opinion because it is very dynamic and has a lot of diversity. Every market is different in terms of maturity and the level of engagement with clients.
How did your passion for watchmaking being?
I got my first watch when I was a kid. For my first communion, my father gifted me a Tag Heuer watch that stuck with me for a long time.
On my 18th birthday, my father gave me a Reverso and from then on, I developed a keen interest in watchmaking.
For me, it’s emotional. The emotional association of watchmaking with important moments in my life, my upbringing and family connection.
While I was finishing my MBA in Dubai, my wife was going to get me a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Compressor World Alarm as a graduation gift. However, just a few months before I graduated, she learnt that she was expecting with our first daughter. She came to me and said “Congratulations, you’re going to have a daughter. The watch will have to wait!”
Funny enough, a few years later, I started to work for Jaeger-LeCoultre and the first watch on my wrist was a Master Compressor World Alarm, the exact model that my wife was going to get me.
When did you start living in Singapore?
That’s a tricky question because I haven’t moved entirely. Although I moved to Singapore in April, the size of the region means that I have to travel quite a bit. My family are still in Australia but will soon move to Singapore.
So I’ve been here for a month now but because of all the travelling, I still have yet to discover the Singapore lifestyle.
But you’ve been to Singapore before?
Prior to this, I’ve come to Singapore many times. My first was back in 2004 when I was living in China and came on a holiday trip to visit some friends. I was really surprised by the difference between Singapore and Hong Kong or Shanghai. For me, Asia was this big unknown back 20 years ago.
Hong Kong and Shanghai are international cosmopolitan cities very much like New York and Paris. When I visited Singapore, I was expecting the same but I was really blown away. The first thing that stands out is how clean and green the city is, how things are organised and how things can happen very fast because everything runs so efficiently.
You mentioned that you entered the watch industry later on in life. What were you doing before that?
I’ve always been very much interested in business development. I feel sales is just one aspect of it and for me, the interest was more of finding new ways of doing things within different industries around the world.
I worked for the business unit of the Spanish consulate in Hong Kong, and then I set up a factory to produce consumer goods in Guangzhou, in China. Then I spent some time in Dubai and Argentina, working on different projects, before moving to Mexico to join Jaeger-LeCoultre.
So, do you play golf?
I took some lessons and played a bit back when I was a little kid.
That was a very, very long time ago and although I enjoyed it while I was a kid, I haven’t played since then.
Golf is a very time demanding sport, and nowadays, unfortunately, I already find it difficult to balance the time between my frequent business travel and spending time with my family.
However, I would love to play again, I think it’s an amazing sport. I still have many good friends that golf regularly, with some even competing. I believe when the family is involved, it provides an amazing framework for spending time together because it’s a moment when you disconnect, turn off the phones and relax amidst the nature of the golf course.
Simply put, I would love to get back into golf somewhere down the line, perhaps once my kids have grown up.
Do you have a go-to sport now?
I like to swim. I used to have some back problems and so I started swimming when I was very young and since then, it has become my go-to sport to relax and distract myself from everything that is going on.
I also play soccer and tennis. In fact, during some of my previous trips to Singapore, I would join some of my colleagues at work to play a bit of soccer after work and to relax.
You’re a pretty busy guy basically. What are you like outside of work?
It’s true that I travel a lot, but I try to have a very balanced approach to work and life. If I’m busy in the office, I try to leave as early as possible to spend time with the kids and get them to bed and then if I need to work a little bit at night, I do it then.
So I’m very flexible in that sense. Since we work with a big region and communicate a lot with our office in Switzerland, it gives me that flexibility of spreading my time throughout the day as fit as it can.
Whenever I find the time, I will spend it with my family. We were based in Australia for three years and we liked to do outdoor activities such as going to the beach and walking on the trails of the amazing natural parks in the area. When we have a little bit more time, we love to travel with the kids.
Another thing I must mention is food. I love food and I come from the town of San Sebastián, an area in Spain where food is a religion and probably the only city with more Michelin star restaurants per inhabitants than anywhere else in the world.
I like to cook, I like to eat, and therefore I am looking forward to exploring Singapore, as it is famous for being one of the culinary destinations in the world.
In your new role as Managing Director South East Asia & Oceania, what are some of the things in the pipeline?
Jaeger-LeCoultre is in a very good position in the region. We have three boutiques in Singapore, one in Bangkok, one in the Philippines and one in Malaysia. We are convinced of the potential of the region and our objective is to strengthen the retail network. We also see opportunities to be present in markets like Australia with the opening of boutiques.
Boutiques are the ultimate way for brands to truly express itself to its clients. We try to give a unique and unified experience to our clients whenever we can, we believe that spaces like these (the Jaeger-LeCoultre boutique at Marina Bay Sands) allow us to get closer to customers and to really showcase what Jaeger-LeCoultre is all about.
So retail is very important for us because it creates that connection with the client. And it is very important to understand what the client wants. Jaeger-LeCoultre is a very customer-centric company in anything we do.
My short term objective is to get to know people, to get to understand all the markets and know the end clients, and then see how we can build on that. There are a lot of plans to increase our retail presence and there is plenty of potential in these markets. My role here is to anchor Jaeger-LeCoultre’s position in the region.
To wrap things up, what would be your favourite Jaeger-LeCoultre timepiece and why?
It would be my Reverso because of its sentimental value as a gift from father when I was young.
Aside from that would be the Duomètre Collection as it embodies what Jaeger-LeCoultre is about – refined, innovative, elegant and unique.